1943 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Capcom Arcade Stadium, yet another collection of Capcom arcade titles, was released on the Switch this week. You get 1943 for free, so I played it. And then completed it.

I mean, you get infinite continues so doing so isn’t really hard. Although the game is. Not least because you seem to have a combined fuel and energy bar which constantly dwindles, and there are a number of waves of baddies where avoiding them or their fire is completely impossible. Plus some of the bosses don’t give you enough time to take them down before they’re gone – meaning you fail the mission have have to try again, hoping you’ve enough smart bombs this time.

Still, it’s mindless and slick and fun.

Syberia 3 (Switch): COMPLETED!

It just so happened that soon after completing Syberia 2, the third game in the series was reduced on the Switch eShop from £45 to about £8. Perfect timing, and so here it is.

With the story essentially concluded at the end of 2, Syberia 3 starts with Kate Walker in a hospital having been dropped there by youkols (the people who you found near the end of the previous game) who had discovered her freezing to death after her boat wrecked – presumably on her way home from Mammothland. The plot involves her escape, and then helping the youkols migrate their snow ostriches to some ancestral grounds “over the border”. The border being important as one of the doctors at the hospital, and some unnamed military group, are in cahoots trying to stop both you and the youkols from making it, for reasons that seem to only amount to “because we don’t like them living in a non-modern way”.

Unlike the first two games, the graphics are now fully 3D in a fixed camera format, not completely unlike Resident Evil, rather than mainly static 2D canvasses. It’s a bit jarring at first – literally, as there’s some jerkiness – but I soon got used to it. Also changed is the inventory, where you now have an “item wheel” to select stuff from, and when you interact with things you sometimes “gesture” with the control stick to open, twist, or move knobs, doors, handles, and so on. It doesn’t really add anything, but at least they thought to try something different, I suppose. It does feel like this should have been a Wii game, though!

The puzzles are as good as before, and the locations are great and varied – like an abandoned fairground in Not Chernobyl Honest, and an old olympic stadium. The story isn’t as good, and you don’t meet so many great characters as in the original games, but overall it’s still definitely worth playing. And it makes me want them to hurry up and finish Syberia 4 now too!

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, that’s really the name of the game.

Luminous Avenger is a sort of sequel to Gunvolt Striker 2, in that it follows on from that albeit about 100 years later and with you playing as Copen, Gunvolt’s nemesis. Although it turned out Gunvolt and Copen were really on the same side, sort of, but from different directions. Anyway, mankind has been mostly enslaved or destroyed by the bad guys from the previous games and Copen is now a machine because, well, 100 years have passed. Gunvolt isn’t in it because (spoilers) he be dead. Yeah, the Copen ending of Gunvolt 2 seems to be the canonical one? Whatever, it seems you didn’t save the world and in fact, it all got a lot worse.

The game plays out just like before, with Mega Man style bosses that give you special powers that are especially good against other bosses. Copen’s gimmick is he can fly into enemies which then targets them to be shot or have those special powers triggered on them. There’s often a bit of aerial action where you “bump” from enemy to enemy fo combos and to pass dangers or bottomless pits.

Just like previous games in the series, it’s very slick, a lot of fun, and has bosses that seem impossible to beat until you realise they’re not. Now, where’s Gunvolt Striker 3, eh?

Bezier (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bezier is what would happen if Geometry Wars and Deus Ex Machina had a baby. All the neon eye cocaine of the former, with the disembodied narration and storytelling of the latter. And both bits are great.

The gameplay is pure arcade. A twin-stick shooter with Gradius-like powerups, Blasteroids-like “bosses”, and a lot of dodging and weaving and sometimes running away. It looks, and sounds, incredible, and there’s some meaty feedback when big things explode.

Like Out Run, there’s a pyramid of stages and a choice of “route” to take at the end of each. Different enemies and types of special shielded foes are located in these, and some seem to provider better opportunity for higher scores – via longer chains of blowing stuff up – than others. I’ve completed the game in that I’ve taken every route through it and beaten the boss on each one, albeit the same boss.

So it’s short, but a lot of fun. I managed to reach the heady heights of 25th on the world rankings – which put me at the bottom of the first page – but I didn’t stay there long, sadly. There’s daily challenge with rankings, and an endless endurance mode too, so there’s still plenty of reason to play.

Syberia 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Having finished the first game I went right on and started the second, which was just as well as the first one just ended without a proper final conclusion.

The sequel is, as I’d expected, more of the same. Slightly better animation, larger areas, and much more snow, but still Kate Walker being called by her full name while she tries to get her train even further north.

The puzzles were mostly on par with the original, although one right near the end with tiles on wheel was frustrating. Not because it was hard, but because you had to look at two things at once and compare them, but can only have one on screen at a time. Thankfully, screenshots are possible!

Also, there’s a section with some penguins. And you don’t get penguins inside the arctic circle, so that bit hurt a bit.

Other than that, though, it was great! But not great enough to spend FORTY FIVE POUNDS on Syberia 3. I’ll wait for the next sale, I think!

Syberia (Switch): COMPLETED!

Since I mostly gave up computer gaming back in the early 2000s, the Syberia games passed me by completely. In fact, point and click games – a mostly PC based genre at the time – were lost almost entirely, until Telltale came along with console versions of their adventures. Now of course, they’re on everything.

I’d eyed up Switch ports of Syberia and its sequel on the eShop a number of times, but never got round to buying them until a perfect storm of cheap credit, a sale, and some Gold points netted me both games for a total of 44p. Rude not to, right?

And it turns out it was really rather good. Certainly it has odd “overlaid graphics” glitches where you sometimes walk in front of items you’re actually walking behind, and because you directly control protagonist Kate Walker with a control stick not a mouse click (unlike in the original PC version) you occasionally walk off a screen in one direction only to have the perspective reverse in the next location and you immediately walk back off again, but there’s nothing too annoying here.

What are great, and important for games in this genre, are the story and the puzzles. The plot is unusual and quirky and full of “clockwork punk” automatons, that feel like something from alternative history Victorian times, only transposed into 2003 with mobile phones. The puzzles are mostly non-obtuse, and obtuseness in puzzles is an issue I have with some games like this. I’m all for using items in slightly unusual ways, but some games literally have no real logic behind items and require you to “use everything on everything”. Syberia doesn’t really have that, as every solution makes sense in the confines of the game. That doesn’t mean everything is obvious, it just means it isn’t seemingly random. A Good Thing.

Even though the game is now knocking on two decades old, the graphics (backgrounds especially) are absolutely beautiful. They’re animated with running water, moving machinery and birds flying around, and I expect back on release this was really impressive.

I think if I hadn’t bought the sequel, I’d have been a bit annoyed that the end of the game just happens with not really a proper resolution. But the sequel continues straight on after the first game in the sort of proto-episodic way that Telltale became known for, so it didn’t matter. And yes, I’ve started the sequel.

Spider Solitaire (Switch): COMPLETED!

No, I didn’t cop out and “just complete a game of Patience”. Well, I did complete it, but only after more than FIVE HUNDRED attempts over more than thirty hours play.

There are three modes – one with all the cards being the same suit, one with them being one of two suits, and one with all four suits. I completed the first two within a couple of goes each, but the four suit mode? Aw hell no.

So, if you’re a stats nerd, then you may know that the probability (because it’s is largely down to luck) of having a completable set dealt is about one in three. But either I missed some gameplay quirk or that’s An Actual Lie because there’s no way it should have taken that many attempts.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’m a big fan of the Shantae games. They’re great looking, slick, and happy blue-skies Metroidvania games, and this – the latest in the series – is no exception.

This time round, Shantae augments her whippy hair with instant transformations into animals, which are unlocked as you progress. A turtle that smashes through rocks, a newt that can climb walls, and a frog who can swim, for example. Where dances in previous games transformed you into animals, these transformations happen when you’re in the right places or press the right buttons, and dances are now triggers for other special powers. For instance, you can activate machinary and turn lights on with a lightning power, or reveal hidden items and areas with a special second-sight ability.

I’ve played all the Shantae games, and I’m pretty sure they’re getting easier. It’s not really a complaint, but Seven Sirens is much, much easier than previous titles in the series. Once you get some of the special dances, you can wipe out most baddies with ease, and the number of health regeneration collectables you get is absurd especially since you rarely need them. In fact, I only used a handful on a couple of the bosses and that was it!

But, it’s a lot of fun. The music is incredible and as always the animation is top notch. Wayforward certainly know how to make pretty platform games which sound amazing.

Journey to the Savage Planet (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s Metroid Prime! Only with humour and all the colours! And with big eyed aliens who meow at you! And it’s very, very good.

Like Metroid Prime, there’s first person shootering, although that’s not really – bar some bosses – the main focus of the gameplay. No, you’re expected to explore, find upgrades to enable further exploration, and you need to discover what all the strange alien artefacts on this supposedly undiscovered and uninhabited planet mean.

You find resources either from rocky outcrops or by killing things, have so solve a few puzzles, and get tools like grenade-ish exploding seeds, things that let you grapple up surfaces (and hang from “rails”, like in Bioshock Infinite), acid bombs that dissolve amber, etc. and each is used both as a weapon to defeat certain types of enemy, and as a method of getting past hazards or walled off areas.

The humour is great, with your sarcastic AI always chattering about how you should do stuff that’s dangerous and how she can always 3D print a new you if you die, and videos from the CEO of the company who sent you to the planet as well as ridiculous TV adverts to entertain when you return to your space ship.

Journey to the Savage Planet is a wonderful, fun, clever little game with lots to discover and even though I’ve completed it there’s still things to find and do – such as get the rest of the fuel needed to actually leave!

198X (Switch): COMPLETED!

198X is a narrative discovery game played out over a series of 1980s style arcade games. There’s a story about a girl who is bored of her suburbian life, who discovers an arcade, with the games there played as both actual games and allegories.

Each is pretty short, but they’re great “versions” of Out Run, Final Fight, a shooter like Gradius or R-Type, and an auto-runner Shinobi style platformer. There’s also a Phantasy Star-like 3D RPG game at the end.

I can’t Believe it’s Not Out Run

I love the pixel art in the game, and although it was neither long, nor deep, nor taxing, I enjoyed it. I’m amazed each of the games in the game haven’t been fleshed out with more levels as stand-alone titles, though!

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch): COMPLETED!

As a massive fan of the original Hyrule Warriors (I own four copies and across them have put in over 900 hours of play), I was really excited to start on this and it was a rare situation where I pre-ordered a digital game such was my need to have it immediately. But, I was worried it might not live up to my hype. Did it?

Well, when I realised that the real “meat” of the first game, that is to say, Adventure Mode, didn’t exist in Age of Calamity, I was immediately worried. The story mode in Hyrule Warriors was good, but very short and made up only about 5% of the game time. To not have it here – at all – concerned me. Thankfully, it sort of is.

You see, Adventure Mode contained a number of maps with each square on the map being some sort of challenge. Defeat X enemies in Y minutes. Defend some character. Fight with a handicap. Take over the forts before something happens. Lots of that sort of thing. In Age of Calamity, these types of challenges are actually integrated into the map on Story Mode. They’re optional in terms of story progression, but essential if you want decent weapons, to level up, or to unlock more characters.

My 40 hours on the game so far did take me to the end, but about 25 hours of that was spent on side missions and I can see there are a good 20-odd more hours to go if the “percentage complete” is anything to go by. Still a good deal shorter than the original game, but not the 15 hours I was expecting.

Gameplay is more or less the same as before, but everything is Breath of the Wild themed. In fact, this game acts as a prequel to that game, telling the story of how Hyrule fell 100 years ago, only not quite – which I won’t expand upon for spoiler reasons. The bow, bombs and hookshot from the first game have been replaced with the stasis, magnesis and other powers of the Sheikah Slate, and of course the characters are those from Breath of the Wild rather than, well, Every Other Zelda Game. You also have some missions where you pilot the massive Guardians and wipe out thousands of enemies with them.

So it looks amazing, and plays amazing, but is it better than one of the best games of all time (i.e. its predecessor)? In theory, yes. It’s less repetitive, had a more coherent and fitting plot, more balanced and varied across characters, the weapon and skill levelling up is much improved and far less grindy, and some of those are perhaps reasons why it’s a shorter game – much of Adventure Mode was grind. Enjoyable grind, but grind nonetheless. That said, I don’t think it’s quite as good. It’s close, but you never forget your first even if it’s technically inferior.

Castlevania (Switch): COMPLETED!

Yes, the original NES game, here in the Castlevania Collection on the Switch. And oh my was it harder than I remember. Mainly the medusa heads in the later levels.

It’s still a great game, and having played other NES platformers this year so many of them just don’t play well these days – and they’re all the bloody same. But not this one!

Paratopic (Switch): COMPLETED!

Paratopic is a narrative discovery game with what seems like a number of characters with related stories and jump-cuts between them. Think of Virginia and Thirty Flights of Loving, with a PS1 graphics aesthetic.

It has a story that I can’t really share because the story is the reason for playing games like this and it’d be a big spoiler, but I will say that that there’s someone transporting illegal videotapes which appear to be like drugs and/or The Ring, and a photographer who stumbles across something in the woods.

And several long sections where you drive a car and listen to almost-Simlish on the radio.

It’s an unusual thing to play, but I can’t say it wasn’t worth doing. It sort of messes with your head a bit and I suspect a second, or third playthrough might help. It’s only an hour or so long anyway.

Abzû (Switch): COMPLETED!

Back when i originally played Journey, I was a bit unkind. I didn’t really get it and felt there was no actual game. Later, I came to realise that wasn’t really the point.

So now I’ve played Abzû, I’m wary of doing the same thing. There’s no game, sure, and again, that’s missing the point. But the point is even less of a point than it was with Journey. Like that game, you travel a world with a lore uncovered through statues and cave paintings. Instead of a scarf, you swim with fish. Instead of puzzles you have… er… nothing. And instead of the second player who shares your journey but you can’t communicate with, you have a shark that appears sometimes.

The fish are pretty, and you can touch them all, but it’s no Endless Ocean. The history you uncover is interesting but it’s no Journey. The acrobatics as you swim are great but pointless, and it’s no Ecco the Dolphin.

Activating a couple of things which are “just there” (like this chain) is about the extent of the puzzle aspect of the game.

I completed it, having explored everywhere and done everything I could think of doing (which, frankly, was very little) and came away thinking… is that it? It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, just I was expecting more. More exposition, more puzzles, more varied events rather than just find a seadoo to open a door and avoid the mines (which explode but you can’t actually die so don’t bother avoiding them?). Just something more. But no.

Horace (Switch): COMPLETED!

I previously started playing Horace on the iPad via a Steam Link from Windows on my Mac, but although I persevered using this setup for the whole of Lair of the Clockwork God, Horace’s tricky platforming needed something a bit more so a couple of hours in I stopped playing. Not that I hadn’t enjoyed it, just I thought I’d wait for a console version.

And here it is!

Firstly, let me get one thing out of the way. On the PC, Horace was rated as a 16 certificate. I’d not come across much to justify that on my brief time with that version, but I was a little surprised the Switch version was a PEGI 7. Imagine how horrified I was to find that this cute little platformer with retro pixel graphics contained All The Big Swears (Even the Worst One), gore, and execution-style murderings. In a PEGI 7 game. Sure, some (but not all!) of the swearing is bleeped, but it’s only a small part of the word bleeped so it’s clear what is being said. Now, I’ve nothing against this sort of thing in a game, but here 1) it’s mostly unnecessary, but worse, 2) it’s a PEGI 7. Which my daughter was watching me play. Not good.

Aside from that (and if it was a PEGI 16 I’d not have an issue), it’s good. Very, very good. Through the story of Horace the Sentient Robot, who lives with a well-to-do family until The Event and then what happens to him afterwards, there’s gravity twisting platforming galore with All of the Referenced to Other Things. Characters right out of 70s sitcoms, soaps, other video games, music references, film parodies – there’s a reference in almost every scene somewhere and spotting them becomes a game in itself.

The platforming, with stick-to-walls-and-ceilings shoes that rotate the whole room as you flip surface makes up the majority of the gameplay, but there’s some exploring, the middle third of the game is almost a Metroidvania (complete with automap), and there are what appear at first to be impossible bosses but once you get their patterns they’re pretty easy – the best sort of bosses.

There are also plenty of minigames, with more references, both as part of the story and as sideshows. There’s an arcade with games like a Ferris Bueller-themed Out Run clone, Space Invaders where each level the baddies are dancers from such things as Thriller and Fame, and a Ghostbusters/Pac-man mash-up. There are also rhythm games where you can earn money.

As well as the main story (which eventually becomes Save The World), Horace has a Quest given to him – clean one million things. In true Jet Set Willy fashion, the whole world is filled with junk and Horace gets a better ending if he manages to collect at least this many items of it. You also sell the junk for big wads of cash to buy upgrades from the shopkeeper from Mr Benn. No, really.

If all this wasn’t enough, then let me tell you just how damn big the game is. It took me 13 hours to complete, which sure, isn’t Assassin’s Creed Origins money, but this is a retro style 2D platformer and just imagine Chuckie Egg 2 being 13 hours long!

Horace is outstanding, and even more so when you realise the entire game was developed by only 3 or 4 people. There are so many ideas, so many minigames, and such variety, comedy and ideas that it’s hard to see how that is possible. Probably one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, in fact.